Woodworking is for women - Gunnison Country Times

2022-08-31 08:38:36 By : Ms. Anna Zhang

So much more than a newspaper.

By michaela@gunnisonshopper.com | on August 10, 2022

Using a bandsaw, Ellen Patten carefully shaped a small piece of wood into a teardrop, filling her home workshop with a loud whirring sound. What once was a piece of an old stump slowly became an earring — one of many made by hand, each a different color, shape and design.

Patten has been woodworking since she was a child. Her grandfather, a sculptor, first taught her how to use a bandsaw when she was only 7 years old. As a kid, Patten built little wooden boats using hand tools and chisels, before racing them down a ditch with her siblings in the backyard. She took to the work quickly and often felt herself more drawn to the process than the outcome.

“I remember being in his woodshop as a little kid all by myself, and I still have all my fingers,” Patten said laughing. 

Workworking, which first started out as a hobby, followed Patten into adulthood and has finally become her full-time occupation. Nearly nine months after setting her focus solely on woodworking, her business, Reverist Design Co., has taken off — making for long, but rewarding days as she shares her designs with the Gunnison Valley community and beyond. From earrings and necklaces to cutting boards and sometimes furniture, each piece is one of a kind and crafted with care. 

Patten’s father, a hobby woodworker and carpenter, also had a woodshop in the garage when she was growing up. He spent a lot of his time remodeling the house, the remnants collected into a giant scrap pile out in the driveway. Patten would pillage the scraps for her own projects. One of note was Club Banana, a small cabin fashioned out of two by fours just the right size for two 10-year-olds to hide away.

Patten, now with a garage of her own, said her first goal after buying a home in 2018 was to acquire a table saw. But slowly she began to build up a large collection of her own tools, filling the entirety of the space — a chop saw, skill saws, jigsaw, a grinder and more. Other tools she is borrowing from her father who is building a new house across town and a little closer to Patten. 

When she was little, her father, Tim, was all for it, giving safety lessons and teaching her how to use all of the tools. Although she gained her initial woodworking skills from her grandpa, most of the knowledge she has now came from her father, Patten said. 

“If there was something specific that I wanted to build and I didn’t know how to do it, I would go ask him and he’d be like, ‘okay, let’s problem-solve. Let’s figure this out together,’” she said. 

In her designs, Patten uses local wood she either collects herself or receives from friends. Small blocks sit in a pile on the table, each piece with a particular place of origin —  an oak stump from her aunt and uncle in Houston, Applewood from Paonia, aspen and beetle kill from the valley. 

The process starts with a half or sometimes an entire day of sketching out ideas on a woodblock, small enough to fit into the palm of her hand. Using a bandsaw, she cuts the block into the shape she wants and then follows the lines she drew with a sander. Her creativity kicks in when she starts piecing together each earring, using wood glue and clamps to create patterns and stripes, although some are more simple and display the beauty of the wood’s natural grain and color. 

On average, she makes 30 pairs a week. Her mother retired a couple of years ago and lives in the valley full time, helping Patten oil and polish earrings. 

Her profession remains mostly male-dominated. She said although she doesn’t mind, she would love to see more women take to the craft and hopes to eventually lead a class for school-age girls in woodworking. 

Sometimes people assume someone else is making all of the pieces for her — a stigma that needs to be changed, Patten said. A few weeks ago she was approached by a man at the Telluride market.

“He said, ‘does your husband make all of this stuff and you just sell it?’” she said. “And I was like, nope, I make it all myself … but I think that stereotype is starting to be in the past.” 

Outside of the Crested Butte and Telluride farmers markets, her handmade pieces can be found at Rooted Apothecaries and online at reveristdesign.com. 

(Bella Biondini can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or bella@gunnisontimes.com.)

Please consider making a donation to The Gunnison Country Times and help keep local journalism thriving!

Gunnison Country Times 218 N. Wisconsin Street Gunnison, CO 81230 Phone: 970-641-1414

Our Hometown DMCA Notices Newspaper web site content management software and services